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Carver County commissioners say no to transit tax

  • Article by: Tom Meersman
  • Star Tribune
  • February 20, 2013 - 9:28 PM

Carver County officials have rejected Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to increase sales tax in their county to help pay for metrowide transit projects because, they say, the costs would outweigh the benefits.

It means the county is opposed to increasing its sales tax by one-quarter percent to accelerate transit projects and pay for existing services. Commissioners passed the resolution 5-0 Tuesday, saying that Carver County’s ridership levels do not justify the proposed transit tax, and that “imposing transit taxes during the current difficult economic times is especially hard to justify.”

County Board Chair Tim Lynch said that “residents of Carver County will bear an unfair expense with little or no direct benefit,” and that local businesses could be at a competitive disadvantage. If Carver increases its sales tax even slightly, he said, consumers could travel just outside the metro area and pay lower taxes when purchasing big-ticket items such as electronics and furniture.

Legislators are considering the governor’s larger package of tax proposals and developing legislation.

In 2008 the Legislature allowed the seven metro counties to impose a similar one-quarter percent sales and use tax, and an excise tax of $20 per motor vehicle sale, to pay for developing and operating transitways. Five counties adopted the measure, which has raised nearly half a billion dollars for transit projects in those communities during the past five years.

Carver and Scott counties did not impose that transit tax.

Scott County has not considered any resolutions on Dayton’s proposal and nothing is scheduled, said county administrator Gary Shelton. “It’s premature for us to take a position,” he said, until the idea is better defined.

Some civic leaders in Scott County, including Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke, have said they support the quarter-percent increase so that the county does not get left behind as neighboring counties build more transit stations and better connections to rapid busway systems and light-rail lines.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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